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Tag Archives: Frog Mouth Catfish in Aquariums

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Introducing a Catfish Fancier’s Dream: the Frog Mouth or Angler Catfish, Chaca bankanensis – Part 2

Click: Introducing a Catfish Fancier’s Dream: the Frog Mouth or Angler Catfish, Chaca bankanensis – Part 1, to read the first part of this article.

The Natural Habitat
The waters in which the frog mouth naturally dwells are almost always located within rainforests, and are quite acidic and soft (“black water”, in the trade). This habitat supports far fewer species of bacteria than most, a fact that may explain this fish’s susceptibility to bacterial and other infections in captivity.Animals hailing from low-bacteria environments lack immunities to micro-organisms that are commonly encountered outside of their natural habitats. I have faced similar problems when rearing other animals from unique habitats – desert-adapted tortoises and penguins are both very delicate in this regard.

Establishing the Frog Mouth Catfish in the Aquarium
I strongly recommend using Marc Weiss Co. Keta-Peat Nuggets in the frog mouth aquarium. Added to the filter, this product will help soften the water, reduce bacterial and algal growth, and create a “black water” environment for your fish. Aquarium Pharmaceuticals pH Down will help to maintain an acidic environment. The waters from which this species originates average 3-4 in pH, but a pH of 6 works well in captivity.

Light and Shelter
The aquarium should be dimly lit, as the frog mouth naturally inhabits muddy waters and is uncomfortable in bright light.

A bed of oak leaves thick enough to hide the catfish is essential if it is to adapt and behave normally. The leaves mimic the cover under which this fish spends most of its time, and will also assist in maintaining a low pH. The frog mouth catfish is most comfortable at temperatures of approximately 77°F.

The frog mouth is a sizable fish that consumes large prey, and so likely produces a good deal of nitrogenous waste. Careful attention should be paid to filtration – the fact that it inhabits muddy waters does not indicate a tolerance for poor water quality. However, the filter’s outflow should be slow, as these fish are not strong swimmers and are native to still and slow- moving waters.

In terms of diet, the frog mouth is a fish specialist, although it has been reported to feed upon earthworms and tadpoles as well. Neither I nor those I have spoken with could induce it to accept earthworms, but an aquarist in Japan reported that her frog mouth fed readily upon freshwater shrimp.

As this fish is still considered a delicate captive, and rarely if ever spawned in captivity (the related Chaca chaca has occasionally been bred), you might consider adding aquarium fishes hailing from Southeast Asia to the diet, along with guppies, minnows, goldfish, platies, mollies and other easily bred species. Until we learn more about its needs, dietary variety will remain an important key in maintaining this fish in captivity.

Due to this specie’s extreme sensitivity to diseases and pathogens that might be carried, unnoticed, by other fishes, I pre-treat all feeder fish with Methylene Blue.

Research Needed
It has been reported, anecdotally, that the frog mouth catfish wiggles the barbels near its mouth in order to lure fish within striking range. Certainly the barbels do move about, but to my eye this seems to be a sensory rather than food-luring behavior. Documenting true luring, as in the manner of a marine anglerfish, would be an interesting project for the aquarist fortunate enough to acquire one of these fascinating animals.

The Standard Catfish Warning!
Please be aware that the spine next to the dorsal fin can inflict a painful wound.

We have a great deal to learn about this fascinating catfish and its relatives…please write in with any observations or questions you may have. Thanks, until next time, Frank Indiviglio.

You can read more about the natural history of this fish and view a picture at: